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Paying off student loans on a budget

Everyone has read the stories with titles like "How I Paid Off My Student Loans in Five Years," but all too often, the real secret seems to be getting a high-paying job straight out of college. What about everyone else, the people who are going into normal entry-level positions and getting the type of salary those positions pay? It is still possible to aggressively pay down the money you owe for school, but it may take a little more strategizing.

Consider Your Goals

Some people think of student loans of something they want to get rid of as soon as possible. Others think of them as simply another monthly expense alongside rent and utilities and are in no particular hurry to pay them off early. There are a couple of drawbacks to both of these approaches.

In the first example, you should be careful that you are not neglecting higher-interest debt or putting off investments that could earn you more in interest than you are paying in loans. It's also worth considering your quality of life. The problem with the second approach is that, depending on the terms of your loan, you can end up paying a huge amount in interest if you only make minimum payments. A better way is to take a look at your goals and figure out what you need to pay off. Maybe you can't get rid of your loans in five years, but ten years is doable. Whatever you decide, write it down. Be specific about your goals and your timeline.


Refinancing can mean paying lower interest rates. You may be able to significantly alter your relationship with your student loans by refinancing them. A student loan refinance can take years off of your repayment schedule, and it only takes a couple of minutes to find out what your options are.

Earn Extra Income

It can be tough to work a second, part-time job alongside your regular job, but it is a guaranteed way to pay down your loans a lot faster. Another option is taking on a side hustle, such as tutoring or delivering food, since you can pick up jobs as you have the time.

Take Drastic Steps

Move to a cheaper apartment, get roommates and considering selling your car and taking the bus everywhere. As mentioned above, it's important to consider quality of life, but it's also a good idea to consider just how much you value some of these things proportionate to the cost. For example, maybe living alone is really important to you, but could you save by moving to a studio apartment in a cheaper part of town? Figure out where you can make sacrifices that won't make you miserable, and put that money that you save toward bigger monthly payments.

Seek Help from Your Employer

Some federal loans can be partially forgiven under certain circumstances if you work for the government or a nonprofit. Some private companies will also help their employees pay off loans as one of their perks, so it is worth doing some research and getting your resume out there if they look like a good fit for you career-wise.